Twitter Grows Its Developer Ecosystem with Postman and the Postman API Network
Developers around the world come to Twitter’s developer portal to get hands-on with Twitter APIs to perform a range of activities. They may be looking to publish Twitter content on their website, or to programmatically create and manage Twitter ad campaigns, or even use the APIs to extract real-time insights based on the public conversation around current affairs, social issues, emergency situations, and more.
Twitter’s Developer Relations (DevRel) team is dedicated to ensuring that all developers have the best possible experience with Twitter APIs. The team relies on the Postman API Platform to help them seamlessly onboard, educate, and inspire developers to get the most out of the APIs in their projects.
API Network, Postman Collections, pre-request scripts, mock servers, OpenAPI spec
The challenge: decreasing the time to “Hello, World!”
Twitter’s primary set of APIs has grown over the years to include new features and new API functionality. Twitter’s API platform also contains enterprise APIs and Twitter Ads APIs, powering an even wider range of customer use cases.
One of the DevRel team’s most important goals is to decrease the time it takes a developer to go from sign-up to their first successful request using a Twitter API. Developers come to Twitter excited enough to sign up for an account, and the team wanted to extend that excitement by enabling them to quickly get hands-on with the API. This “time to value” or “time to Hello, World!,” as Twitter calls it, needs to be minutes, not hours.
Prior to adopting Postman, the DevRel team used basic documentation, static examples, and unstructured code samples to onboard developers to the Twitter APIs. Developers would explore the APIs by trying out a limited number of examples. They would also run requests using a language-specific client library or command-line tool like cURL (or Twurl, Twitter’s own tool). This fragmented educational tool set made it harder for developers to get up to speed quickly and understand the full potential of the Twitter APIs.
Twitter centralizes API onboarding, education, and exploration
In late 2018, the team began a new initiative to engage the developer community prior to an official product release. Twitter Developer Labs, a key part of this initiative, was designed to share early release versions of new API endpoints, features, and updates, and invite developers to share feedback. As this new Labs program took shape, the DevRel team began looking at how Postman could help streamline API access and exploration for external users, as well as improve collaboration between internal teams and the community. Postman’s broad popularity with developers, as well as the platform’s ease of use and graphic interface, guided Twitter’s decision-making.
When choosing an API platform, we went straight to a familiar solution. Postman was a very well understood tool with a good core of developers already using it.
Since moving the APIs to Postman, the team has been able to significantly optimize the onboarding experience, with about half of their new users now experiencing a faster time-to-value than before. This lower barrier to “Hello, World!” has also increased the discovery and usage of the APIs within the broader developer community.
Postman Collections simplify access and collaboration
The DevRel team maintains Postman Collections that include the 23+ endpoints that are publicly available through the Labs program. There is a Run in Postman button for each collection that allows developers to automatically import the endpoints and pre-defined environment variables directly into their personal Postman workspaces. This enables them to consume the Twitter API right away.
The Labs program was a success, so much so that the team built a new public collection for the recently released v2 Twitter API, which started with 13 endpoints. This collection contains the most up to date endpoints in the new Twitter API platform, including new features (such as Tweet annotations and the hide replies endpoint) that weren’t available in the past.
The v2 Twitter API collection, Twitter Developer Labs collection, and Twitter Ads collection are all available through the Twitter docs and the Postman API Network, which makes it even easier for the developer community to find and access them. The DevRel team also includes a link to the Labs collection in their new feature announcements, which are shared via @TwitterDev.
Our new feature announcements always include a link to our Postman Collection, so that developers can get started quickly and seamlessly.
Sometimes, the DevRel team runs live walkthroughs of their APIs on Postman, which has provided a more engaging experience than using a slide presentation. Their audience can see responses working and ask questions in real time.
Postman has since become the standard tool for API collaboration at Twitter, enabling internal teams to test APIs on a wider surface area than can be achieved with just cURL requests or a library. The DevRel team can be more tightly integrated into the product release process as changes are made to the APIs, thus delivering a perfect feedback loop as part of change management.
The developer community tests prototypes on Postman
When Twitter developers needed user feedback on new ideas, the DevRel team found an innovative way to engage external developers in prototype testing. Using pre-request scripts and a Twitter host, they created a special environment on Postman with test endpoints. The test URL should have resulted in a 404 page, but instead returned a realistic result. To users, the setup looked like a production environment, yet the entire test was contained within Postman. The team wanted to get the best input from users without distracting them with the details of the prototype environment itself. Postman’s flexibility enabled a seamless experience for users while helping the DevRel team gather high-quality feedback.
Both users and product teams had such a positive experience that the project spearheaded changes to Twitter’s overall product development processes. This approach now helps product teams to keep user-centric design top of mind and makes it easier to incorporate user input early in development, resulting in faster releases.
With Postman as our prototype testing platform, we were able to reduce our feature development cycle from months to a three week sprint cycle.
Providing more access to more developers in the future
Going forward, the DevRel team is continuing to explore ways to use Postman. Their current focus is on leveraging mock servers to simulate endpoints and response data without actually having the endpoint built out. This will allow the DevRel team to get user feedback before spending development resources, while also allowing the developer community to evaluate the Twitter API with fewer restrictions.
I think mock servers will really be a game changer for us. We’ll be able to offer easy access to developers and secure our production data.
As a result of all the DevRel team successes with Postman noted above, future versions of Twitter APIs will be made available to the developer community at large via new Postman Collections, and the team intends to deliver all of their new public APIs through the Postman API Network. Giving broader access and enabling easier exploration will help the DevRel team grow their developer ecosystem, and more developers will be interested in trying out new features or collaborating with Twitter engineers on new ideas. With Postman at the center, the team intends to develop even more new ways to deliver a faster “time to Hello, World!” experience for all.
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The Twitter API and Twitter Developer Labs collections enable programmatic access to Twitter in unique and advanced ways. Use it to analyze, learn from, experiment, and interact with Tweets, Direct Messages, users, and other key Twitter resources.
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